NEW DELHI: In an age of 'soft copies' where a visit to a photo studio is highly unlikely unless one needs a passport-sized photograph for an official document, 'Mahatta & Co' have survived the test of time for 100 years exactly!.
The studio, which completes a century of substantial existence since its establishment in 1915 in Srinagar by Amar Nath Mehta, continues to function today from Connaught Place here. The celebration was marked by an exhibition "Picturing a Century: Mahatta Studio and history of Photography in India, 1915-2015", which was inaugurated last evening here at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, on the occasion of World Photography Day.
A 200 page book by the same name published by Authors Upfront was also launched. "Today as less people are printing (photographs), although more people are taking up photography, I would like to state that the importance of physical images is absolutely imperative. This book and exhibition is a tribute to the art of photography which has evolved greatly over the last 100 years," says Pavan Mehta, who now runs the shop with his brother.
Divided into sections depicting different forms of photography, the show is a visual tour of the history of what has now developed as an art form in India. Owing to its place of origin, the collection is replete with pictures of the city of Kashmir by the river Jhelum take throughout the decade from 1925 to 1935.
The historical photographs inadvertently set forth a poignant comparison of the beautiful valley before the 1947 Indo-Pak war and in its aftermath with broken bridges and fallen houses.
While tracing the evolution of photography, the showcase also implies the development of technology and its impact. "The maximum amount of change in technology has be witnessed in the last century. I have tried to bring out the brief change in technology along with the history of photography," says Mehta.
A visible and expected development in the art form was the introduction of colour photography. The historical section, especially those before India's partition are predominantly in monochrome. The first colour photograph in the exhibition that dates back to 1979, is that of the first car launched by automobile company Maruti. Red in colour, the seemingly toy car had just room enough for four and no more!
Several other manufacturing activities like welding at motorcycle companies and weaving at cloth mills that were captured in action have been documented under industrial photography at the exhibition.
The studio has a wholesome part dedicated to portraiture photography, offering the viewer a sneak peek into centuries old lifestyle. The photographs offer a window on how people dressed and lived in the past.
Among the recognizable portraits were some daring pictures of yesteryears' Parsee model Persis Khambatta. Besides the expected pictures of political figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Queen Elizabeth II, there are photographs of historical monuments, particularly in Delhi.
The Safdarjung Tomb, Jantar Mantar, and the area surrounding the Rashtrapati Bhawan including the North and South Block feature in the collection on display.